UnknownWhat is originality? How can we be sure we are being original in our acts or shows? Are we borrowing, knowingly or unknowingly, for some one else? I will give you some “food for thought” in this week’s installment of the Maher blog.

What comes to mind is the old adage “there is nothing new under the sun”, and sometimes I have to agree. Often when we think we have come up with the most clever, original spot in our show we later find that someone did it previously. That is not stealing… you may have spent hours arranging and rearranging a bit and not have had the most remote idea that someone did it before you. At this point I would have offered this advice to do some in depth research to determine if what you are offering is truly an original work.

That being said, you can also make something previously done your own with some creativity. It’s the idea of using already established things and combining them in a new and unique way. The “suitcase bit” wherein the vent dummy doesn’t want to go back in the case and the vent and puppet fight over the situation is not new. It was a ‘standard” for many decades. But recently I saw my good friend Jeff Dunham use this with the puppet running away and Jeff chasing him trying to put him away. It was unique and different and Jeff’s PRESENTATION was fresh and original. This is a great example of “hitching up old horses (the suitcase bit) to new wagons (Jeff’s approach). That is being original!

What about jokes you may ask? Here again it’s how you use them and how you can innovate with them. Many jokes have the same premise, but with adapting and changing them a bit you can make them uniquely your own. It’s often a matter of how you USE the joke and in what context than just whether or not the joke is new. Here again it’s taking this joke and combining it in a unique way that makes it original.

I am not advocating taking a joke someone else is using verbatim, not at all. But maybe you can innovate using the same joke premise and write something that fits what you are doing. Whatever you do..DON’T TAKE A CHUNK OF SOMEONE ELSE’S ACT AND TRY AN USE IT. That is a definite swipe. First see if you can write an original joke (if you’re having trouble you may want to look at my comedy writing cd “Comedy Writing For Kidshows” audio book..which has solid advice for both kids and adult comedy material). If you a re having trouble, search out places and see if you can innovate and create something new based upon what someone else has said of done. BE SURE TO MAKE IT YOUR OWN, preferably so it is not recognized or identified with someone else’s act of show.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants, so use what they have done as a base to further originate. Who knows, maybe your adaption might be stronger that the source from which it came! Good luck!

To contact Mark Wade: kidshowvent@gmail.com






  • Colin F Spencer

    September 28, 2015

    Hi Mark. The old saying is Amateurs steal, Professionals adapt. Nuff said. Colin.

  • Mark Wade

    September 28, 2015

    Hi Colin,

    Another old saying is”if they take your lines, it’s stealing; if you take their lines, it’s “research”!. I don’t think I agree with this statement but it does have an ounce of truth to it!

  • Keith Suranna

    September 29, 2015

    I don’t mean to be a schmuck, Mark, but I have to respectfully disagree that Jeff’s chasing the little dummy was that original, fresh, or different. Clifford Guest did that in the 70s or 80s with his Junior character on the HBO show “Doubletalk.” Now I don’t know if Guest originated the bit, but it was and still is hilarious.

    • Mark Wade

      September 29, 2015

      Keith. I know that the “suitcases bit” is old, even older than Clifford Guest’s bit , but my main point was Jeff’s PRESENTATION. He dressed up something old and made it viable again. I don’t think anyone dobts that it wasn’t a new bit, it was how it was handled by Jeff onstage that made the difference. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

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